Saturday, March 29, 2014

When Things Go Wrong

Robin Lane
(photographer unknown - used without permission)
by Dick Mac

In 1978, and the years to follow, I listened to, watched, admired, developed crushes on, and came to adore Robin Lane.  With her band, Robin Lane and The Chartbusters, she owned a substantial slice of the Boston music scene, which was exploding at the time.

I attended live shows every week:  Robin Lane, Human Sexual Response, Mission of Burma, Lou Miami, Pastiche, The Girls, The Outlets, Phobia, The Stompers, Unnatural Axe, The Lyres, Lizzie Borden, La Peste, Classic Ruins, Thrills, Del Fuegos and more -- so many more.  I got to know musicians and singers, bartenders and bouncers, record producers and band managers.  I landed in videos and films, radio stations and recording studios.  I produced plays and wrote comedy. I took too many drugs, drank too much, had sex with too many people, and absolutely adored my life.  It may have been the end of the 1970s, but it was still the 1970s we all loved and were lucky to live through.

The Rat, Cantones, Sp(a)ce, Inn Square Men's Bar, Streets, Storyville, and other haunts became my homes away from home.

Some weeks I sought out a particular band, some weeks I was chasing a particular romance, some weeks I was looking for particular drugs, but every week included some time in one of these venues.

I never had any trouble meeting and picking up girls or boys, and was known to be very direct with anyone I wanted to be with. On more than one occasion I asked the wrong boy to dance, and would find myself in a potentially violent and dangerous situation.  Fortunately, the majority of the people on the scene were not as offended as the guy who considered himself my 'victim' and I could talk my way out of death with the help of friends or casual acquaintances.

I jumped at any opportunity to see Robin Lane and The Chartbusters.  Robin Lane was adorable, and sexy, and looked so tough and seemed so vulnerable.  She was everything a rock 'n roll chick should be in my young, naive mind.  I had the hots for her, as I said in those days.

Whenever I had the opportunity to say hello or chat with her she was charming and friendly.  I would get tongue-tied, stammer and mumble, and eventually make an excuse to withdraw.  No matter how cool, hip and sophisticated I thought I was, she was cooler, hipper and more sophisticated.

In the ensuing decades, I learned about self-centered fear, and the way events of my youth shaped my ability or inability to form healthy relationships with other people.

A few years ago, I saw Robin Lane listed as a 'friend' of a 'friend' on Facebook.  Facebook is that place where the word 'friend' means something very different than than definition I remember from Catholic school.

I checked-out her page and read about her work with women and girls and music.  She was clearly a survivor like me and so many others of our generation who made it out alive.  She was using her valuable life experience to be of service to others.  I was now more impressed thirty-odd years later than I had been in my youth.

Eventually I became her 'friend' (in the Facebook sense of the word) and followed her goings-on from a distance.  I read a post she made one day and it resonated so deeply with me that I sent her a message, and we had a brief correspondence about some issues of importance to both of us.

Some weeks/months/years later, I saw a poster online announcing her performance in the Boston area on the same bill as my cousin, Andrea Gillis.  We shared some messages about that and I was excited to hear that she admired Andrea.

Sometime in 2012 (I think), I saw an announcement that Chartbuster's drummer Tim Jackson established a kickstarter project to fund a movie about Robin.  I was thrilled and I followed the progress as announcements were made.

Finally, earlier this year, the premiere screening of the movie was announced for Friday, April 4, 2014, at the Arlington Regent Theatre, near Boston.  Next Friday.

I got two tickets immediately and started making plans.

I will be there.

Will you?

Get info here:  When Things Go Wrong, Robin Lane's Story

Get tickets here:  Regent Theatre

Look for me:  I'll be the really good-looking guy who used to be much younger!

And I'll look for you:  I remember who you are.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Development and the Social Conscience

by Dick Mac

The Chelsea of New York City is home to many famous people:  actors, singers, television personalities, writers, etc.  And it is home to many people not quite so powerful and affluent.

The more socially-conscious of these celebrities often speak-up when something unsavory is happening in their neighborhood.  In fact, in the not-too-distant past, one famous couple (actor and actress) attended public meetings held to consider if a financially-strapped hospital could use its air rights to build luxury condos that would save the institution.

St. Vincent's was the only hospital on the West Side of lower Manhattan, it had an important legacy of charity, and pretty-much invented the protocol for treating people with AIDS.  It was part of the fabric of the city and its loss would be devastating.

It was a relief to hear that Mr. & Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star Couple would be attending the meeting.  They could bring a powerful voice to the needs of the community.

Well, oddly, they were taking a stand AGAINST the hospital!

She said the hospital was dreadful, that SHE would never bring HER children there.  And he mocked pro-hospital demonstrators by agreeing that the neighborhood deserved a world-class hospital, but he would only go there if it was life-or-death (implying it was not a world-class hospital and never could be).

The chapel inside St Vincent's Hospital
For those who do not know:  St. Vincent's went bankrupt, closed, has been demolished and luxury condos are being erected.  There is no hospital on the west side of lower Manhattan.

A few years after that world-altering, earth-shattering event, Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star had the ovarian fortitude to stand in front of the now-dead hospital to endorse a mayoral candidate and decry the loss of the hospital!  Yes!  She gathered with a group of people upset about the hospital closing!

She spoke against the hospital five years earlier, and now she was upset that it was gone.

The only word that comes to mind to describe this amnesiac is a word that today I will not type.

Fast forward to 2014.

Less than a block, in throwing distance of the lovely Chelsea home owned by Mr. & Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Stars (now-separated), at 124 W. 16th Street, a developer has purchased the air-rights above a church of questionable business repute, and is erecting an 11-story luxury condominium building nestled in a neighborhood of 6-story buildings.  (See picture here where the developer's artist has drawn the adjacent six-story building out-of-proportion so it looks taller than it really is and the new building looks smaller.)

I don't know if Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star still owns that nearby home, but she still lives in New York and I can't imagine a good reason for her to have moved from that lovely neighborhood.  If she does still live in the neighborhood, she has failed to use her considerable clout to fight this development, which unlike the hospital plan, IS a blight on the community.

A building like this could diminish the value of her property.  Sadly, the diminished value of her property would mean diminished value of the property owned by people not quite as affluent and powerful as she.

In the big picture, with friends like her, that neighborhood doesn't need enemies.

The construction of this building destroys the character of the neighborhood (which I know means nothing to America anymore); but, it diminishes the value of taxpayers' homes (and even a Tea Party supporter should be un-in-arms about that).  This development is bad for everyone but the developers.

Yet, the development goes on and those who own property on that street have no recourse.

I hope the community stages daily walking pickets outside the building when prospective buyers come to shop.  Let them know they are complicit in this debacle.

Nobody like Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star has come to their aid, and nobody of any importance will.

Read about the new development:

In case you hadn't paid attention to the St. Vincent's debacle, read here:

Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star is so concerned in 2013:

Monday, February 03, 2014

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road? A Look Back

by Dick Mac

Chicken crossing road
About ten or fifteen years ago, a list circulated of answers to the question "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

The first list below is the list that circulated.

The second list were the additions I made at that time, and began to appear on the list as it circulated around the globe.

Do you have some to add?

The original list as I first received it:

The point is that the chicken crossed the road. Who cares why?  The ends of crossing the road justify whatever motive there was.

Thomas de Torquemada:
Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I’ll find out.

Timothy Leary:
Because that’s the only kind of trip the Establishment would let it take.

Carl Jung:
The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and, therefore, synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

John Locke:
Because he was exercising his natural right to liberty.

Albert Camus:
It doesn't matter; the chicken’s actions have no meaning except to him.

The Bible:
And God came down from the heavens, and He said unto the chicken, “Thou shalt cross the road.” And the Chicken crossed the road, and there was much rejoicing.

Fox Mulder:
It was a government conspiracy.

The fact that you thought that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

Chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically dispositioned to cross roads.

Darwin #2:
It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.

Richard M. Nixon:
The chicken did not cross the road. I repeat, the chicken did not cross the road.

The Pope:
That is only for God to know.

Louis Farrakhan:
The road, you will see, represents the black man. The chicken crossed the “black man” in order to trample him and keep him down.

Martin Luther King, Jr.:
I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

Immanuel Kant:
The chicken, being an autonomous being, chose to cross the road of his own free will.

In my day, we didn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken had crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

That depends on which plane of reality the chicken was on at the time.

George Orwell:
Because the government had fooled him into thinking that he was crossing the road of his own free will, when he was really only serving their interests.

Colonel Sanders:
I missed one?

For the greater good.

To actualize its potential.

Karl Marx:
It was a historical inevitability.

Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road gazes also across you.

B.F. Skinner:
Because the external influences, which had pervaded its sensorium from birth, had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own freewill.

Jean-Paul Sartre:
In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

Albert Einstein:
Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Pyrrho the Skeptic:
What road?

The Sphinx:
You tell me.

If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken nature.

Emily Dickinson:
Because it could not stop for death.

Ralph Waldo Emerson:
It didn't cross the road; it transcended it.

Ernest Hemingway:
To die. In the rain.

Saddam Hussein:
It is the Mother of all Chickens.

Joseph Stalin:
I don’t care. Catch it. I need its eggs to make my omelet.

Dr. Seuss:
Did the chicken cross the road?
Did he cross it with a toad?
Yes the chicken crossed the road,
but why it crossed, I've not been told!

O.J. Simpson:
It didn’t.  I was playing golf with it at the time.

Human Resources/Training Perspective:
The chicken had a vision. The chicken was proficient in the core competencies necessary to implement the plan and make the vision reality.

Pat Buchanan:
To steal a job from a decent, hardworking American.

Oliver Stone:
The question is not “Why did the chicken cross the road?” but is rather “Who was crossing the road at the same time whom we overlooked in our haste to observe the chicken crossing?”

Jerry Seinfeld:
Why does anyone cross a road? I mean, why doesn't anyone ever think to  ask, “What the heck was this chicken doing walking around all over the place anyway?”

Dirk Gently (Holistic Detective):
I’m not exactly sure why, but right now I've got a horse in my bathroom.

Bill Gates:
I have just released the new Chicken 2000, which will both cross roads AND balance your checkbook, though when it divides 3 by 2 it gets 1.4999999999.

The items I added those many years ago:

e.e. cummings:
g   e    t
the other    s    i     d    e

Albert Einstein (#2):
The chicken is insane!  For all of time the chicken crosses the road over and over again, expecting different results.

Freud (#2):
Sometimes a chicken crossing the road is just a chicken crossing the road.

John Lennon:
The fookin chicken crossed the bloody road to get away from his oppressor, man.

Andy Warhol:
In the future, everyone will cross the road for fifteen minutes.

A 12-Step Perspective:
Having admitted that it was on the wrong side of the street, the chicken came to believe that a Power greater than itself could, and would, if sought, assist it in crossing the road.  The chicken made a decision to cross the road.  Before proceeding too wantonly, the chicken examined its past, its motives, its fears; admitted these to itself, God, and another chicken.  Became entirely willing to cross the road.  Asked God to remove all obstacles in the road.  Made a list of all who were harmed in the chicken’s self-seeking efforts to stay on the wrong side of the street, and became willing to make right all such relationships.  Made all the amends necessary to relieve itself of all obstacles between it and crossing the road.  While crossing, continued to examine its motives and actions and corrected them immediately.  Sought, through prayer and meditation, a constant and rewarding contact with the God of its understanding.  Having successfully crossed the road, the chicken practiced these new-found principles in all areas of its life, and dedicated all its efforts to helping other chickens get on the right side of the street.

Do you have some to add?

Your Name:
Your answer.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pete Seeger (1919 - 2014)

by Dick Mac

Pete Seeger
I stood-up to relieve my discomfort after listening to a brilliant man, elderly now but with a legacy that rivals any other intellectual’s legacy, eulogize his wife.  They were both well-known American activists associated with some of the most famous and infamous names of the 20th Century:  from Ella Baker and W.E.B. Du Bois to Che Guevara and Kathy Boudin.

The elderly man was stately and regal-looking, he had the powerful voice of a litigator and orator, and his advanced years, though showing physically, had not affected his brilliance.  He had started weeping and it turned to sobbing, and he was unable to continue.  He did not look broken, just sad, very sad.  He was escorted from the stage by one of his sons.

Somebody else began speaking from the stage at the SEIU 1199 Hall at 43rd and Eighth while many of us fidgeted back and forth one foot to the other, empathizing with the pain of this widower.

I found myself standing next to an older man who was not wearing a suit as most of the men were.  He was pleasant and when we made eye-contact, he extended his hand:  “I’m Pete.”  He smiled.

I knew his name was Pete.  I suspect everyone in the room knew his name was Pete.  He was present to pay homage to his friend, the late Joanne Grant.  It was her husband, Victor Rabinowitz, who had just eulogized her and left us all feeling deeper compassion than I knew I had.

I thought it must be awkward for Pete to be in these situations, these gatherings, but he was relaxed and pleasant.  I introduced myself, and he said he would miss Joanne, that her death was a big loss for the world.

I did not know Joanne personally, I was friends with her son, Mark, and it was because of him I found myself in the midst of Leftist New York this particular evening.  I was there because he was my friend and his mother had died.  I felt awkward, not knowing anyone personally, but everyone was very gracious and open and welcoming.  Pete and I exchanged a few pleasantries, and I did not want to behave like a groupie or be a burden on him; so, I eventually trailed off the conversation and let him move to the next mourner cum well-wisher.

He did not take the stage and sing a song of protest, he did not make himself the center of attention.  At that event, Pete Seeger was the most humble famous person I'd ever met.  I now regret ending the discussion so quickly, because when would I have a chance to meet him again?

Well, it appears, never.

Godspeed, Pete Seeger.

Monday, January 27, 2014

What do you do when your club becomes the richest in the world?

by Liz Tray
Manchester City
This week I went to Upton Park to see my beloved Manchester City play West Ham in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final. I had asked for the ticket (I’m a member of the Supporters’ Club, a benefit is requesting tickets) before we won the first match 6-0 but I grab any chance I can to see my team – having moved to London in 2000 away games are pretty much my only chance to see us play. I average a home game a season (this time it’ll be Fulham in March) when I go home to visit but away matches are rather unique. It’s a constantly singing, buzzing, boiling cauldron of intensity. It’s not like that at home, where the size of the stadium dissipates the noise – away fans are the real deal, a devoted band of travellers who follow the team home and away, across not just England but Europe (to think of the days when we were a million miles away from even playing in the Europa, let alone the Champions League). It ain’t cheap (£50+ a ticket – when I moved here it was £35; better team now, they charge fans more: so the club is rich, we are too?) but I can’t complain as most of the away fans have come down from Manchester. Mind you, there are a few ex-pats like me, and I even meet fans from London and the south who started supporting us decades ago (why, I wonder, what did we have to offer then?! I inherited City from my dad, and he from his, whereas they picked us quite randomly).

The vibe at Upton Park was unlike any I’d experienced because of the bizarre scoreline (already 6-0) before we even kicked off. It was an odd atmosphere, with us virtually certain of getting to the final. I’m usually a bag of nerves and stress, as you’d expect, but here we were, one professional display away from our first League Cup (as opposed to FA Cup) appearance since 1976, the year of my birth.

Near the end a bad tackle, ludicrously unpunished by the referee, brought down our new Spanish striker, a complete player if ever I saw one, Alvaro Negredo. He fell very awkwardly and grabbed his shoulder in agony. Anger at the non-award of the free kick fell away quickly, to be replaced with genuine concern, as fans held their heads and covered their mouths in hope that he’d be ok. At worst, it could be a dislocated shoulder, we all thought. The medical team attended to him and he went back on, holding his arm, refusing to go off the field for the last 5 minutes. Tough lad, that one. Then, the sound of what a TV audience must think is booing filled the night air. In fact, it was the low hum of the City fans chanting his nickname: Beast. Certainly, some of the worry was about the possible loss of such a fantastic player to injury but mostly it was of simple concern that a person was hurt. It made me think about what these men mean to me, and it’s why I chose to write this blog.

During the match we pulled out our full repertoire of songs, this is my favourite:
Oh Pablo Zabaleta, he is the fuckin’ man, he plays for Argentina, he’s harder than Jaap Stam. He wears the blue and white, for Pellegrini’s men, and when we win the league we’ll sing this song again.
A little hubris at the end, possibly, but rather said with a wink. We sang songs about Kompany, Touré, Silva, Aguero, all stars of this team that we’re lucky to have. There’s still a disbelief that such talent turns out in the blue shirt. We even found time to have a little chant about one of our only good players of the 90s (Georgi Kinkladze and Ali Benarbia are the only other good players that spring to mind of that era) – a German called  Uwe Rösler (now the Wigan manager; his 13-year-old son is named Colin, after City legend Colin Bell, and he’s at the City Academy). It ends with the line: ‘Uwe’s granddad bombed the Stretford End!’ Old Trafford, you see, was bombed during the Second World War and from 1941-49, if you can believe this, United shared our ground. It might be a bit of a sad testament to the nature of football now that that would seem so unbelievable but until a few decades ago many in Manchester supported both teams. My dad’s dad, Eli, was a diehard Blue but my mum’s dad, Cyril, went to City one week and United the next. In the end, though, I like to think that his heart lay with City, as he and dad went to matches together for over a decade until he passed in 1990. Dad marvels now how he dragged himself to watch terrible football on cold, wet Manchester nights when he had a season ticket (1977-1995). As we sang the Rösler song I thought back to what seemed like only a few years ago, and how we barely had any players worth composing a song about. How on earth did this happen to us?

For my own part, I moved to London the year after we were promoted out of the old Division Three in 1999 (now called League One, and just to confuse you it was called Division One then). At that time we were playing in our charming but crumbling home since 1923 – Maine Road. My grandfather Eli, who I sadly never knew, had been to the very first match there. My father’s first game was in 1960. Mine was in 1988. It has been a long family road. A story from the 1990s goes that the Maine Road groundsman wasn’t able to even paint the white lines on the pitch without handing over cash into the hand of the local paint suppliers. That’s how broke we were. Two decades of financial mismanagement had brought the club to its knees. When I was a kid in the 80s a local businessman called Peter Swales, a diehard Blue with a spectacular comb-over, was the chairman. He was a passionate man but an utterly hopeless businessman and we lurched from one crisis to another. The fans revolted and he was ousted in 1994 and replaced as chairman by Francis Lee, a legendary former player of ours. Unlike most players of that era, who were paid little and ended up getting real jobs after their playing days were over (very few went into management and punditry as it is now didn’t exist then), he had become a successful, wealthy businessman. He had made his fortune recycling paper, primarily toilet rolls. I, literally, shit you not.

He was another terrible choice, as it turned out. Ex-players put in charge at the higher levels always want to run the team and he undermined the many managers he hired and fired. His friend, the late great Alan Ball (brilliant player, World Cup winner) was a hopeless case and relegated us in 1995. And then the managerial merry-go-round started. Let me put this into perspective with a statistic: during Alex Ferguson’s Old Trafford reign of 27 years, we had (excluding Cup and League-winning captain Tony Book’s brief caretaker manager reigns) 17 managers. From August to December 1996 we had 3 managers. In 5 months. That’s what it was like in those days. We were relegated 3 times, up and down, up and down. During our tenure in the 3rd tier in 1998/99 we lost 1-0 at home to Bury. A local team now in League Two (the 4th tier) who, on average, draw 3,500 fans a home game. Even in the 3rd tier we averaged 28,000, over twice as many fans as any other club. I have several friends who are Bury fans; I tell you, they’re real fans, schlepping to watch a team that will never win anything, home and away. I was at Bury College at the time of this defeat. You can imagine what Monday morning was like.

In 1998, finally, a good man took charge and, essentially, fixed everything. He is responsible for where we are now (as is Paul Dickov, but that’s another story: this goal changed the club forever:

David Bernstein (a very clever and rich man, the then-CEO of fashion retailers French Connection and an accountant by trade) was a lifelong Blue and couldn’t bear the disaster any longer. He transformed the club from the ground up, securing financing and doing the deal that got us, at a nice price thank you very much, the 2002 Commonwealth Games stadium, which we moved into the year after. Later, Bernstein was appointed as FA Chairman (he just retired – you have to at 70 – and has been replaced by the very stupid TV mogul Greg Dyke) and he just received a CBE for services to football.

But still, even then, we stumbled around for a while, though we were now financially on better footing, and were unfortunately bought by a Thai crook (a former PM and oppressor of his people, a murderer, some say) called Thaksin Shinawatra. Like many fans, I was deeply unhappy with this ownership, and it enhanced the geographical distance somehow. I feel disconnected from the team for the first time in my life and I hated it. Then, the unimaginable happened. In 2008, thanks to the beauty of the stadium apparently, the ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mansour, saw us as the perfect investment. A sleeping giant, as they say. Five years later he’s spent £1 billion and transformed us into a club that can compete at, we hope, the highest level. He has hired smart football people: our Spanish lynchpins, CEO Ferran Sorriano and Director of Football Txiki Begiristain, were both, essentially, poached from Barcelona. He installed our chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, his main connection to the team, who visits Manchester often. Khaldoon has an American accent thanks to his degree, in finance and economics, from Tufts in Boston and is a very clever, tough but likeable man doing a spectacular job – he is supportive and does not interfere in football matters, as so very many idiotic chairmen do (central casting Disney villain Vincent Tan at Cardiff and the moronic Assem Allam at Hull, I’m looking at you). Our manager, Manuel Pellegrini, another shrewd appointment, is now giving us the stable, drama-free, leadership we need. In personality, he is everything the over-emotional, difficult, passionate and impatient Roberto Mancini was not.

Only five years ago I was going through a period of feeling totally disconnected from the team. And now, that feeling is a world away. I still can’t quite believe what’s happened.

Those players are working for me. Yes, for themselves, for the manager, for their money, but when you’re there watching a game live, you can’t help but marvel at how they’re toiling in the cold, getting kicked all over the pitch, working their backsides off, for you. For all of us. There’s a giddy glee now to City fans, after years of longing and disappointment and being kicked in the teeth. Yes, there’s still a fear, which really is unfounded, that it may all end tomorrow… but it could go on forever, as the Smiths song goes.

Nothing stays with you for life like football does. You lose jobs or move houses, or cities, and your team is still there. You lose family members and your team is still there, providing a distraction during unimaginably tough times last year, in my case. I know that these men are highly paid but none of that matters during a game, when you dream and fear and wish and want and they work to try and please you. To gain your love. These men are not machines, devoid of sentiment. They were kids once, who stood on a terrace like the one you’re standing on, cheering their team, worshipping their heroes. They get to do it, for real, they get to be the guy they dreamt of being. Most people have a rather craven view of money. That it fixes everything, that it’s all that matters. I know someone who loves his team but cannot stand any football players. He says they are all yobs. He constantly talks of how they’d rather be paid a ton and sit on the bench than earn less and play every week. He cannot see their humanity. He cannot see past the 5% who are pictured with women not their wives or get into nightclub brawls. I feel sorry for him. These are human beings, with families, and they work hard every day. For you. For me. If anyone doubts that take a look at a feature on our website called Tunnel Cam. We are, it would seem, the only club that does it.

As an example of anthropology it is fascinating. It shows in the clearest way I have ever seen the dividing line of the match and what happens before it – the white line of the pitch, and what goes on before it is crossed. We all know what happens after. But before, players greet each other as friends, as on each team there are connections: the same nationality, a player who used to play with you at a former club, a player who you play with for a national team. It’s all cordial reunions and hugs and European cheek-kissing and shirt-swapping. Lines of mascots (kids aged between 4 and about 10 who accompany the players onto the pitch) stand in the tunnel, holding their hands out to be high-fived by the players, who are charming and kind to them. Sometimes players will have their own children as mascots. These big, tough, tattooed men, gently picking up and kissing their tiny toddlers, who are wearing matching strips to them. You’d have to have a hard heart not to be touched. It’s important to humanise players, not least because it lets you feel connected to men who, in my case, play 200 miles away from where I live (that’s a lot in England!). Additionally, our dual fandom is one facet of my relationship with my dad; it’s an unbreakable bond with him as much as the team.

I cannot even think about our 2012 title win without blinking tears from my eyes. We who had been let down for decades were finally going to win. And we very nearly ruined it. We choked, and then remarkably, United choked. And then, with one kick of a genius boot, I felt like I will never feel again. Because whatever happens next, it will not feel like that day did. That utter darkness until the goal went in:

This clip from that day is a moment that dad and I still talk about, as everything we felt is encapsulated in this few seconds of sheer relief and exploding emotion.  Where a huge, shaven-headed burly City fan sinks to his knees and weeps for everything he’s been through, before being picked up and hugged by another man – a friend? A total stranger? It didn’t matter. It never matters during a match. You’re all friends, you’re all in it together:

Winning the FA Cup the year before had been lovely and a relief but was tainted by Tevez having been on strike for 6 months, abandoning the club. A ridiculous situation caused by the over-emotionality of Roberto Mancini as much as by poor player behaviour. When Tevez, and not the rightful captain, Vincent Kompany, held the cup aloft it left a sour taste. Winning the league was as pure as it gets. It will never feel like that again. I wished I was in Manchester that day – as soon as the game ended I got on a train and made it up in time for the TV highlights. Dad and I watched it and wept. The day after we went to a parade with about 100,000 other people. Two weeks later my mum was gone. That’s why it’s all so important, that’s what football gave me. Something else to think about that, along with support from friends (including the very owner of this blog) and family, saved my sanity.

When I get to the away games, I am consumed by joy, win or lose, in being able to be with my people, my fellow Mancs: in all their happy, sad, angry, thrilled, hilarious, nervous, anarchic, relieved, sometimes disappointed foul-mouthed glory. This is football. At its core, this is what it is. You belong, for life. You love them and they love you. They never leave you, and you never leave them, even if and when they let you down. At the end of the West Ham game, after 90 minutes of brilliant banter (We sang: ‘You’re getting Moyes in the morning!’ They sang: ‘We only need 10!’ (we were 3-0 up by this point, 9-0 on aggregate) and when Stevan Jovetic, a new player who has been unlucky with injury came on, we sang: ‘Who the fucking hell are you?!’) the Hammers fans did a little Poznan (our backs to the pitch, arm over arm, jumping goal celebration) and we did one back to them. Then we all did it together.

The brave, hardy Hammers were 9-0 down and those fans love their team as much today as they did yesterday, as they will tomorrow. That is football. That used to be me. I remember one week in the early 2000s where we played Liverpool twice in a week, Cup and league. We lost 6-0 and 4-0. Times change but people do not. I’m stuck with this club for life.

When I was growing up, Manchester was a very tough place to be a City fan. In my school year, of 100+ girls, I was one of three Blues. Not everyone supported a team of course but there were probably 60 or 70 United fans. What will that number be in a decade? I see kids now at the matches who won’t remember how bad things were. Talking recently with a United fan friend, he told me I was willing to pay any price for success – meaning, in reference to our owners and where their largesse is derived from, I’m turning a blind eye to the terrible human rights conditions in Abu Dhabi in exchange for, one hopes, trophies. If I’d experienced 20+ years of unrivalled success, like he had, and my club was bought by people who treat their citizens like crap would I abandon the club? United may be owned by people sucking the financial life out of the place but at least they’re not human rights abusers. Do I turn a blind eye because I’ve toiled and loved and, through thin and thin, supported a club that let me down every week? Do I think I deserve some success now, at any cost? I wish I was stronger, and I admire people who have turned their backs on the club, in a way. They’re better people than I. Why do I continue to support a club run by people who treat women and gays and immigrant workers like shit in their own country? A regime that if City had a Jewish player he would not be allowed into the country. I cannot defend that, and thus I cannot defend myself. It’s a complicated issue and one I have no answer for. All I can say is that, in daily life, we are all complicit in demeaning others, whether we want or intend to or not. We all own clothing from sweatshops, we all buy computers (and TVs and DVD players) made by Chinese slave labour. I’m just trying to do my best, every day, like everyone else. Unless you live in a tree and wear clothes made of hemp and forage for food you’re complicit too. So I take a little bit of pleasure when I can from football, because it took and took from me for so many years and hardened me to misery and now finally I’m getting something back. What can I do about it except cut my nose off to spite my face? I’ve mostly, not entirely, made my peace with it.

Some City fans take more pleasure in United losing than City winning. I never understood those people even when I was living in Manchester and taking shit from United fans every single day. They pitied, bullied, patronised and laughed at us. And we were pathetic – I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it does feel a little nice that they don’t get everything their way now. But, I always say to dad – I don’t care about what other clubs do, who they play, who they lose points to; we can only control what we do, how we play, and do our best. These players are the best that City have ever had. Sometimes I can’t believe what I’m watching. It’s like a gift. Like someone decided that we’d taken enough shit one day and said: it’s your turn. I’ll take it.

Thank you, Liz, for this wonderful article.